Drawing the Toy Gun Line

Family Matters on 05.02.11
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Photo Credit: Nick White/Getty Images

Back in March, after our local St. Patrick's Day Parade, my four year old son was walking back to my sister's house with her when she found a toy machine gun that some kid had tossed in the bushes. Thinking it was kind of fun, she pulled it out of the bushes and gave it to my son, and sent me off a picture of my little guy proudly holding his large weapon. It was the beginning of the end. Up until this point, I had done a good job at keeping guns out of our toy assortment. When his other friends were playing superheroes where the bad guy had a gun or were pretending to be cops, I thanked my lucky stars that my son wasn't into that sort of thing. But he loved this gun that his favorite aunt had given to him, and was really excited about it. I wasn't quite sure how to allow this machine gun complete with sound effects into our house, and so I told him that if he was going to keep it, it was going to live in the garage and he could only play with it outside. It is also never to be aimed at any person or animal. But the fact is we've crossed to the other side, and I'm not sure what to do about it now.

Our town also has a huge police parade which happened to take place yesterday. While I was out of town, my husband took the kids to watch it and lo and behold, my son convinced my husband to buy him a pistol style gun that shoots foam arrows. It has already made its way into the house, and has been played with virtually non-stop. How did the mom who has managed to hide every teeny tiny Playmobil gun that has accompanied a toy police man and not let any others into the house for almost five years progress to letting him play with a machine gun and pistol so quickly? Have I lost all my conviction? And why does it matter if he plays with toy guns or not?

I don't really think that playing with guns is going to make my child more aggressive or violent. That being said, I still don't like them. I generally think they do more harm than good. I don't want my child to think that he knows how to use one should he happen to come across a real one which we could say is a long shot, but it really isn't seeing as a lot of people do have them in their homes. It only takes one for something to go wrong. I also have no interest in teaching my children that violence solves any problems or that shooting at people or anything else is a good thing to do whether it be pretend or not. I'd rather the thought didn't cross their minds, but I suppose I can't truly control that. Despite the fact that we live in a world where we are incessantly bombarded with stories of murder and war, weapons are meant to be used in only the most extreme circumstances. And while it may all seem like it's just child's play, what happens when suddenly the "gun" is pointed at someone's face? It's not hard to find some disturbing images of this scenario.

I don't know that there is any way that I can go back to a no gun rule now, but I will not be loosening the reigns any more than I already have, and I think that if we are going to allow the guns to be played with there needs to be a serious conversation that goes along with them to make sure the kids understand the power of a real weapon, and that they really aren't fun and games.  

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